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Anita Morris: Femme Fatal

Published: 3/2/2014
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Anita Morris (Getty Images / Time & Life Pictures)

Her 1982 performance as the seductive Carla in Nine prompted Norman Mailer to say that "the spirit of Marilyn Monroe resides in the body and soul of Anita Morris." It also earned her a Tony nomination, and the dubious distinction of being scrubbed from the award's broadcast that year when CBS censors found her appearance too risque for Sunday night TV audiences. Today, 20 years after her death Mar. 2, 1994, her performance might still be too hot for censors to handle.

Television audiences loved her, no matter how far she pushed her sensuality on screen. Throughout the 1980s and early '90s she turned up in guest-starring roles all over the dial. From comedies, such as Cheers, Who's the Boss? and Murphy Brown, to more serious fare like Melrose Place, Murder She Wrote and Miami Vice, Morris was up for just about any role.

Here she is on Cheers. Skip ahead to 1:20 to see Morris channeling Marilyn.

Perhaps her best-remembered role is the scheming, erotically manipulative mistress to Danny DeVito's character in the smash hit Ruthless People. Morris' turn as the bad girl with dollar signs in her eyes caught her at her best: wickedly charming, unbelievably beautiful and showing a sinister streak that would have made any femme fatale proud.

It is also worth noting that Ruthless People hit movie theaters in 1986, a year after Morris was supposed to have died. In 1980, she was diagnosed with a terminal case of ovarian cancer and given five years to live. Morris, ever one to demand more stage time, fought the disease for an astonishing 14 years before taking her final bow.

Written by Seth Joseph. Find him on Google+.

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